Company agrees to replace underwater oil pipeline between Great Lakes

Company agrees to replace underwater oil pipeline between Great Lakes

Enbridge Energy agreed Wednesday to replace a decades-old oil product pipeline under Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac amid fears that it could leak into the Great Lakes.

The Canadian company and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced the deal years after bipartisan concern about Line 5 started to grow. The straits, about 3.5 miles wide, connect lakes Superior and Michigan.

Enbridge will pay $350 million to $500 million to build a tunnel for new pipes 100 feet below the bottom of the straits to replace the current pipes that sit on the seabed with little above them. Construction is estimated to take seven to 10 years, and Enbridge could lease space in the tunnels for other utilities.

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“The agreement protects the waters of the Straits and the Great Lakes in several ways, and makes a safe pipeline even safer,” the company said in a statement.

“The agreement with the State reflects Enbridge’s steadfast commitment to protecting the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.”

Enbridge also pledged to take other measures to increase safety on Line 5, including improving other water body crossings, agreeing not to operate the line when waves are too high and improving cooperation with the state.

Snyder, who helped negotiate the deal, cheered it as a win for the state.

“This common-sense solution offers the greatest possible safeguards to Michigan’s waters while maintaining critical connections to ensure Michigan residents have the energy resources they need,” he said in a statement.

“The historic agreement will result in eliminating nearly every risk of an oil leak in the Straits and provide added protections to the Great Lakes. It also will allow for multiple utilities to be housed and protected, better connecting our peninsulas, improving energy security and supporting economic development.”